Supergirl has officially been renewed for a second season, but not by who you think.
Instead of CBS, the home of the show’s first season, the second season is being moved to the CW network. This hop-over means Supergirl officially joins the ranks of Arrow and The Flash (despite being canonically set on a different Earth from the other two shows), and lends itself to the promise of more crossovers and interconnected stories when the show picks up again in the fall 2016 television season.
The CBS Corporation co-owns the CW with Warner Brothers, but putting Supergirl on its most popular network channel is pretty significant. It’s one of the first titular superhero shows—as opposed to, say, Gotham or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which bets on a brand recognition, rather than a specific character—on network TV since the 1970’s Wonder Woman, and is female led (excluding, of course, the now-canceled Agent Carter, which, from the start, lacked the character recognition that both Supergirl and Wonder Woman have). Even with Greg Berlanti, the creator of The Flash and Arrow, being behind the helm of Supergirl as well, CBS took a chance on running the show on their major network, instead of relegating it to the CW. This move was a sign that they were aware of the size of the DC Comics fanbase, and also a signal that CBS was looking to expand their demographics by securing a younger audience.
While CBS consistently ranks as the number one network (with ABC, Fox, and NBC all leagues behind it), it is also noted as having one of the oldest audience bases for a network. Supergirl was CBS’ chance to increase the younger (and increasingly female) audiences who came for shows like the Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls, but didn’t necessarily stick around for the other content CBS provided. CBS attempted to use the addition of Supergirl as another bridge for younger audiences to get hooked. However the outcome, the numbers of Supergirl apparently did not provide enough incentive for CBS to continue to fund it directly from their main network.
Which leads to the most dangerous aspect of Supergirl‘s move to the CW: the show will now have a significantly lower budget. The CW has a guaranteed, potentially more loyal audience already set for the show, but with production on the second season already being moved to Vancouver to cut costs, it’s likely the special effects that the show boasted in the first season may never be quite as good as when it was on CBS. Still, the move is a smart one, as cross-content, crossovers, and increased buzz will all derive from the decision. What Supergirl loses in budget, it may gain in storytelling (and possibly an appearance from Lynda Carter as President of the United States).
The biggest question is: how will these changes affect the landscape of superhero media? Already dangerously close to superhero fatigue, another half hour to hour-long show both changes the nature of the CW’s superhero “block” of programming, and may change the relationship audience’s have with the show–whether from timing conflicts with other popular “geek” shows, or simply lack of time to watch them all. While streaming platforms like Hulu and DVR service from cable providers may alleviate some of the struggle for audiences, the question becomes will people think it’s worth it to tune in? (Not to mention, online streaming still is not necessarily included in a network’s Nielsen stats).
It will be interesting to see how Supergirl fares on a new channel. The change could bring higher numbers to the CW—already a network with a dominant young, female audience—and a sense of hope for more female superhero content in the future, which is the one thing most other caped and cowled shows right now severely lack.